Baby Found Dead In Truck In West Miami-Dade

Miami-Dade police are investigating the tragic accidental death of a South Florida baby in the western part of the county.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue confirmed that the body of a small child, possibly a two-year-old baby, was found dead in a silver Toyota truck parked in a shopping center parking lot at 82nd Avenue and Flagler Street.

"It was an accident. The mother was working and then just realized that the kid was there. When she went to lunch, and then I don't want to say nothing because we don't know," said family friend Roberto Espinosa.

Espinosa said the mother works at a nearby Petsmart and she stepped out for lunch and found her son dead in the backseat.

"I feel bad because the kid is only two year old and the mother works here and imagine when she noticed the kid was already suffocated," Espinosa said. "It hurts because he was a loved kid. It's real tough."

Miami-Dade police have not said if the child was in a car seat, nor did they say how long it had been in the truck.


Mother charged in tot's death
A mother was charged with manslaughter in the death of her 18-month-old son, who was left in a truck.
BY JENNIFER LEBOVICH
jlebovich@MiamiHerald.com
The mother of an 18-month-old boy who died after being left inside a truck for several hours on Thursday was charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child, police said.

Elizabeth Cuesta, 39, was released from jail at around 4:30 a.m. Friday on a $10,000 bond.

She told police she forgot that her son, Diego Vega, was in the truck when she went to work inside Petsmart at 9 a.m..

Hours later, the tot's father found him dead, strapped in his car seat in the truck in the parking lot at 8241 W. Flagler St.

''She is probably a very good parent whose negligence resulted in this child's death,'' said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle. ``It's a horrible situation for the husband, for the siblings. I'm really grieving for this family.''

Here's what happened Thursday, according to the arrest affidavit:

Cuesta left her house about 7:45 a.m. to drop her two children off at school, which she routinely did.

After dropping off the first child, she then went to work, ''forgetting that she had not dropped the victim to his school,'' according to the arrest form.

Cuesta went to her job as a veterinary technician at Banfield, The Pet Hospital, which leases space inside the Petsmart store.

Just before 3 p.m., the boy's father went to visit her.

That's when he found the boy still strapped in the car seat in the back of the truck, with the windows rolled up.

She has worked there for five years, the company said.

In a statement, Banfield officials said: ``We are devastated by the news that a young child passed away while left unattended in a parked car. We are in the process of gathering additional information and are working with local authorities as they handle the situation. Grief counselors are available to help our hospital associates cope with this difficult news.''

Jacqui Colyer, the Department of Children & Families top Miami administrator, said the agency had reported no prior contact with the family prior to Diego's death.

NOT UNCOMMON

Such deaths are not uncommon, according to Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Cars (www.kidsandcars.org), a national organization that tracks such incidents.

The Miami victim was the fourth child to die this year after being left unattended in a car. Last year, 42 children died, said Fennell.

Her organization is pushing for passage of a bill in Congress that would require all car seats be equipped with a ''rear seat belt reminder'' to prevent children from being left unattended in a car.

On Friday, the Department of Children and Families and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue held a press conference to talk about safety tips and preventable child deaths.

Temperatures can rise rapidly in cars, officials warned, saying that in just 10 minutes on a normal summer day the temperature inside a car can rise 19 degrees. Inside a car, temperatures can climb above 120 degrees.

DROWNING

Also threats are pools, lakes and canals when small children are not properly supervised, Colyer said.

For children aged 4 and younger, drowning is the top cause of death in Florida. Only one other state, Arizona, has a greater number of drowning deaths among youngsters.

DCF is encouraging parents to appoint a ''designated watcher'' to supervise all the children around a family pool or lake, Colyer said. Colyer also encouraged people to be vigilant with family members and friends, reminding them not to become too distracted while caring for children.

''Exercise good judgment and common sense, and somebody ought to be designated child-watcher to make sure the babies are taken care of,'' Colyer said.


Miami Herald staff writer Carol Marbin Miller contributed to this report.